The Improv Life Ep.9 with David Escobedo – Fernando’s Improv Podcast

Lots of insights and revelations in this episode. It’s a good one! Check it out!

The Improv Life Ep.9 with David Escobedo

Welcome to Episode 9 of the Improv Life Podcast 

Man, today I had a very special guest. Literally, one of my favorite people in the whole world – David Escobedo, global improviser. Also, this was my first international podcast as David is in England!

Me and David go a ways back since we were both producers for Spectacles Improv Engine, a now defunct theater in Orange County, CA, USA. David and I produced a show called Ladies and Gentlemen, and ever since then I’ve been in awe of the guy. 

David is simply amazing. David is on the front lines of the global improv movement. He’s connecting with improvisers from all over the world, connecting with them and collaborating with them, discovering new ways to play and work with another. 

His Facebook page, The Improv Boost, is one of the most active and visited Facebook pages for improvisers across the world. David is a community builder, and The Improv Boost is proof of that. 

In this podcast, we talk about his improv journey, his recent experiences in the UK Improv Scene, his most recent insights and revelations, and much more.

Listen on SoundCloud

Here’s What We Talked About

  • Why it’s nice to have your name pronounced correctly 
  • The Mexican Food in England and where the good spots are
  • David’s experience as a Mexican-American man from San Diego in England
  • How there is a lack of awareness of Mexican culture in England, and how this ignorance causes people in the UK to celebrate Mexican culture with the things they know about it, which unfortunately are stereotypes, and how David has to educate people about his culture
  • David’s journey to becoming a global improviser
  • How David walking away from a theater that did not give him back the love he was pouring into it may have been one of the best things he’s ever done
  • Why he started The Improv Boost, and that by starting The Improv Boost he has transcended whatever box or finite boundaries a singular improv theater may have wanted to confine him to
  • Powerful quote: “When they mean family, they mean kingdom.” – Me, reflecting on David’s idea of theaters weaponizing the idea of family to keep students in line. 
  • David’s experience in arriving to the England Improv Scene and how it was five years behind the American Scene in terms of some of the community standards of holding people accountable and dealing with toxic leaders and their “petty empires.” 
  • Powerful quote: “It’s so important for people to realize that their journey in improv is not as someone’s student, but as their own journey in improv.” – David talking about why it’s important for people to study with a lot of people and focus on their development as an improviser, not as a disciple of a specific teacher or identifying with a certain community 
  • David’s encounter with tribalism in the UK Improv Scene and how he combatted it 
  • How the sense of classicism is different in England and how that affects how improv teams and communities develop
  • David leading by example in England and showing other groups how they can work together to elevate each other
  • How the British Improv Scene is developing independent of influence from the American Scene
  • How the Keith Johnstone school of improv is more prevalent in England and how that’s influenced the style over there 
  • How David’s experience in England has opened up his eyes to new ways to doing improv 
  • Individuality vs. Dividuality = Western culture vs Eastern culture 
  • Dividuality – your actions affect a larger community 
  • “Status is expressed how we treat other people” – David Escobedo 
  • You can’t learn to be more creative; you’re just as creative as you are. But you can unlearn to be uncreative – David echoing Keith Johnstone 
  • How people seek gurus but how they should be their own leader 
  • Some of the turnoffs David experienced while studying at some of the big LA improv schools 
  • How David to learn improv on his own, and reflecting on how he could create space for others 
  • The pitfalls of teaching, coaching, and directing 
  • The kind of teachers you should avoid at all costs 
  • The relationship between skills and community, and how Gurus sell one more than the other but how you have to have both 
  • How the UK improv scene is beginning to have conversations about boundaries as being inspired by the Me Too movement that happened in the US and forced improv theaters to have conversations about sexual harassment and create policies to combat it and create safe and inclusive spaces
  • Key quote – “You can have vulnerability without having boundaries” – Brené Brown 
  • How England’s long history and tradition creates a conservative environment that makes it hard to have open and direct conversations about difficult topics like sexism and racism 
  • Key quote – “Allow yourself to suck at something new…in the risk is where the genius happens” – David Escobedo
  • How Americans have to have more humility about our improv and how we relate to the global improv scene 
  • David’s overall experience in the UK, how it is being an American in the UK and having to explain America’s politics to UK folk, and the next parts of his journey 

It was awesome having David on the show, and I can’t wait to see where his journey takes him. Thank you for being on the show, brother! 

Resources 

Here are some of the different Facebook pages David mentioned at the end of the show. Check them out! 

The Art of Yes – [From the Facebook Page] “Welcome to The Art of Yes! Our goal is to inspire others, share knowledge, and provide a forum for asking questions about improvisational theater (otherwise known as improv). All posts will be moderated, and we kindly ask you to refrain from advertising any shows or local events. We encourage you to invite friends, family, coworkers, basically anyone who is or may be interested in improv, to join the community. Hope you enjoy reading the Art of Yes as much as we enjoy creating it!” 

Today Improv – [From the Facebook Page] “Today Improv is a Los Angeles based company teaching improv for actors, improv for business and improv for everyone else. Change your life”

Improv MKE [From their website] – “What if you opened an improv theater and school that brought teachers from all over the country and the world who can teach others some of the things you’ve learned over the years and continue to learn yourself? That’s what Improv MKE LLC is all about! The organization is designed to create access, both in-person and online, for people to have fun, learn, grow, and play together in ways they never thought possible! Thanks for coming by. We hope you stay to play with us. YES AND, we also do corporate stuff! Entertainment, workshops, and custom-created programs and training are available! We do it ALL!! Mainly because Michelle is no longer a baby, and has a team.”

The Black Improv Alliance – [From the Facebook Page] “The Black Improv Alliance provides a space for improvisers of African descent to build worlds and tell their authentic stories unapologetically! We are committed to dismantling white supremacy in improv, one scene at a time.”

Thank You for Listening

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The Improv Life: Del Taco Nights

No one beats Del Taco nights.

The Improv Life: Del Taco Nights

On almost any given Friday or Saturday night, I could roll on over to STAGES Theater and catch whatever improv show Spectacles Improv Engine was putting on that night.

If it wasn’t packed, I’d sit at the very last row and watch. If it was IFL, I knew I was in for a treat. Austin Floyd and Matt Thomas would be hosting, the field reporter would take suggestions, and the teams would be doing improv, and we were just living up the magic of each other’s company.

I remember there was this one time where the improv was amazing, Austin was on fire with his quips, he was even responding to my heckles from the top row, where I took off my shoes because no one was around, and I was exhausted, and then when I felt safe and vulnerable, I thought to myself, “This isn’t going to last forever.”

I don’t know why I thought that. It was a thought that came to the surface when I was off guard. I looked at the stage and got a little sad.

I then immediately buried the feeling and tried not to think about it. I just knew that I was witnessing a really cool moment that would stay with me from then on.

Once the show was over, I think I went down the steps to shake hands and give hugs and let everyone know how amazing of a show it was.

I had just had a long day in LA and hadn’t ate in more than 8 hours. I had a terrible diet back then, forcing myself to go without food until I couldn’t stand the hunger.

So I went to Del Taco, the one on State College and Chapman, ordered whatever, and then ate it in my car.

It was a very Orange County thing to do: eat Del Taco after a super late show.

Being an improv comedian in Orange County meant late nights: late shows, late dinners, late karaoke jams, late hangs in the parking lot spilling your guts to your peers, or opening your heart to a new friend; you let the day linger to its last second because you wanted to feel like you did all you could that day to squeeze every ounce of value and joy from this day that would be gone forever.

Del Taco was just part of that lifestyle.

I lived late, laughed late, and ate Del Beef Burritos after midnight.

I ate Del Taco to cool down my mind, body, and soul after an epic day.

To get some calories for the drive home.

To begin to let go of a day that had to end.

When I was at Specs, even when maybe it wasn’t the best or it was phenomenal and people would quote that shit forever, I did not want it to end.

I wanted the night to continue and go on, to see more improv, and do more improv; to just laugh like a dumb kid and throw out suggestions that were also bits; to see my friends and marvel at their skills.

Del Taco was necessary for me to end the day, accept it was over, and go to bed to not be too exhausted for the next one.

And you can substitute Del Taco for Norms, Denny’s, whatever post game late night meal to draw the day out a little longer. The bonus about those places was that you ate with friends.

I miss Specs. I don’t know if I have fully processed it’s over (despite playing in a show that was labeled as the Last Specs Show). Maybe I’m not good at processing reality or dealing with trauma, but not eating Del Taco at the State College and Chapman location for over a year finally convinced me it’s over.

Love you Specs. Thank you for all the good times and memories, the friendships and lessons, the feeling of being alive. I will forever be in your debt.

Love you too Del Taco.

#improv #ocimprov #specsimprov


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The Improv Life Ep.2 – Liam O’Mahoney, Fernando’s Improv Blog Podcast

I always love talking to Liam O’Mahoney.

Welcome to the 2nd episode ever of Fernando’s Improv Blog Podcast – The Improv Life! 

Today I talked to none other than Liam O’Mahoney! 

Liam is literally one of my favorite people in the whole world. There’s nobody I’ve probably done more improv scenes with in my whole life because of our time on Big Selfie together. 

Him and I share a crazy synchronized group mind. There was a moment in the interview where Liam was speaking, and I literally thought of the next word out of his mouth – and I was right! And I told him, “That was the same word I was thinking!” 

You don’t meet someone like Liam O’Mahoney every day. Dude is funny, kind, accepting, and creative. I’m very lucky to call him a friend, a person I’ve had a million good times with on stage, off stage, hanging out in the parking lot before a shot, and just in life. Love you Liam! 

You can listen to the latest episode down below!

Here’s What Liam and I Talked About: 

  • Our first meeting ever and how we heard about each other before actually meeting.
  • Liam’s early days at the Improv Collective and joining the community through Binh Ngyuen’s Improv Class at Orange Coast College.
  • How Liam and I have a crazy group mind because of our time together on Big Selfie.
  • How Liam was able to say “Yes” to what he wanted to do with his life.
  • How that choice has brought him many friendships.
  • Liam and I reminisce about all the crazy experimental shows we did back in the day and how it made us into better artists.
  • How I intentionally planted the seed of “Game” in Liam’s mind when I coached him and Keefer Langer for their two-man Harold team. 
  • His journey to dreaming of being an actor, denying that desire, and finally embracing his artistic destiny by choosing himself. 
  • How the Improv Collective embraced him and nurtured him in the early days of his improv journey. 
  • Liam talks about studying at UCB LA and how different it felt from the Improv Collective. 
  • Liam reveals how deep he got into the LA improv world with his various practice groups and indy teams. 
  • How this is the first time ever Liam has not done improv because of the crazy times we’re living in. 
  • Overall, check out this podcast to see two friends with a lot of history and a love talk about their journeys. 

Links 

Help Save Us, Improv Collective – the amazing theater where Liam and I cut our teeth at and formed our friendship needs your help. The Improv Collective has set up a Patreon to raise money to keep the theater alive. If you could sign up and donate, I would really appreciate it. 

The Improv Collective Facebook Page – Stay up-to-date on all things Improv Collective. 

The Big Selfie Facebook Page –  Follow the Big Selfie FB page to find out when we’re coming back! I don’t know when, but you don’t want to miss the announcement! 

Here are some blog posts where I talk about Liam and Big Selfie 

The Fernando Show – A Retrospective On Taking Risks and Failing Big – The one man show where Liam was my sidekick and everything that went wrong. 

The Improv Life: What I Learned About Owning Your Characters – I mention one of the last great amazing scenes and I did before the quarantine hit. 

Hardeen Profiles: Meet Liam O’Mahoney – A bizarre profile I wrote about Liam to promo one of our many failed Hardeen sketch shows. 

The Improv Life: Do It Together – A journal entry of when my Defenders like super team did a set at Idiot Dome. 

The Improv Life: The Importance of Side Projects, Or Some More History of How Big Selfie Came Together a little bit of background of how my Armando team, Big Selfie, came together. 

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The Year I Grew As A Writer, Producer, & Director

What an amazing year. You will live forever in my heart 2019.

The Year I Grew As A Writer, Producer, & Director

I’ve been telling people that 2019 has been the worst year for me as a performer.

I just felt I was off my game, and that I wasn’t the best me possible, the home run hitter I know I am.

And that’s because I focused all my efforts on writing, producing, and directing.

I gave my attention to others and had less for myself, which I’m fine with because I got to work with some amazing people.

These people astounded me with their passion, their gifts, their willingness to take risks and have fun while failing or succeeding, and always delivering finished projects.

This was definitely a year where I embraced the mantle of leadership and put the good of others in front of my own.

But it’s easy to serve when the people you’re working for are amazing and push you to be a better version of yourself.

We did a lot this year.

Two sketch teams were built (Moonshot and The Latinx Comedy Pachanga).

Moonshot crushing at the Pack.

The Pachanga crushing it at Second City, Heraldo, the Clubhouse, and Moving Arts.

X-Men themed experimental shows. (Thank you Elyssa Phillips).

We actually got the blessing of the X-Men The Animated Series Producers for those shows!

Pachanga Potlucks to fail and have fun.

Video sketches shot.

Table read of Macho Libre, an amazing and necessary and powerful pilot by Marcelina Chavira.

Mashup teams.

Two-prov with Tiffany Aleman and Diosa.

The Pack Inclusivity Jam with Tiffany, Royce Shockley, and Robert Clarke Chan.

Amazing stories from Neal Dandade, Joey Clift, Shaun Landry, and Bryan Phillip Cruz for the same jam.

Dingleberries with Rich Sohn and Neal Dandade.

Shit ton of amazing live sketches.

Speedface with Alli Ramirez at PackCon.

Got to host the final night of the Orange County Improv Festival. 

A lot of amazing conversations with Richard Aaron, my co-producer on the Pachanga.

Hanging out with my sister, Melissa.

Reading for Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble Artistic Director Sara Guerrero on her amazing production of Canto de Anaheim, a play written, produced, and directed by her in collaboration with Gustavo Arellano and the Pacific Symphony.

I got a UCB Diversity Scholarship and started taking classes. 

Taught a sketch writing class for Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble. 

Started teaching improv again after many years by leading the Specs Friday Drop-In. 

Teaching my first ever “How To Write A POC Sketch” Class at Second City for LADCF and then San Francisco for Colorized Improv. Thank you for the help Shirley Rivera.

One more Ka-Blahm-O! Show with Dwayne McDaniel.

Big Selfie Shows with Brandon, Liam, Sam, and Tee at the Improv Collective. 

Performing on the UCB Franklin Stage for the first time ever with the Latinx Comedy Pachanga. 

Did my first ever voice over work! A really fun Dora The Explorer cartoon for AOK. 

The Pachanga helped Bonnie He with a character called “John Yang” and she then performed it for 10,000 people the next day at an Andrew Yang Fundraiser! That then got us an opportunity to perform at Andrew Yang Fundraiser produced by her! 

Wrote 302 poems. 

Directed really fun video ads for my new company Helium 10. Here is my favorite, a QVC parody! 

And probably my two proudest accomplishments: shooting The American Dream with Moonshot in the desert (thank you Valerie and Baldev and crew); and directing the Pachanga for LADCF 2020, the best sketch show I’ve directed to this point.

And every project rewarded us with knowledge and experience for the next adventure.

I don’t know what 2020 has in store, but as long as I keep working with amazing people, I know it’s going to be awesome.

Love to all the amazing people in my life.

#moonshot #moonshotcomedy #latinxcomedypachanga #latinx #sketchcomedy #sketch #packtheater #LADCF #secondcity #poc #poccomedy #heraldo #americandream #improv #ucb #specsimprov #improvcollective #teacher 

 

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Confidence vs. Arrogance: Notes from the May 17th Specs Friday Drop-In

It’s been a long journey on the road to confidence, but I’m glad I got here.

By Fernando A. Funes

Confidence Vs. Arrogance.

Confidence is one of the key elements of a good improv performance.

Every improviser has experienced pressure to be funny.

It’s scary at first to go out there in front of a bunch of strangers under the pretense that you will make them laugh.

It’s part of the contract when you sign up to be a performer.

Although it takes time to become comfortable on stage, there is one indispensable component to becoming a great stage performer: confidence.

Confidence is what makes this whole thing less scary; it gives you the strength you need to go out there and put on a show without knowing what the hell is going to happen.

Don’t get me wrong. You still need good improv fundamentals, empathy, listening, responding in the moment, and every other quality needed to be a good improviser. All I’m saying is that confidence is an important component under-girding all of those.

What is Confidence?

Confidence is your belief in your ability to execute the task expected of you — put on a show, do a scene, be yourself and respond like a human being.

Confidence is what allows you to go out there and do a strong choice even if you don’t know where that choice is going or why you did it. It’s the bridge between your training and instinct.

It’s your relationship with yourself and how you feel about your abilities.

When it comes to improv, confidence is a way of saying: “I may not be in control of things, but I am in control how I react to them.”

Although people on the outside can influence it through trying to bring you down through insults or building you up with compliments, confidence is internal.

It’s just in you, and it’s expressed in how you express yourself on stage and how you interact with others off the stage.

What is Confidence’s relationship to Commitment?

When we talk about commitment, what we mean is having confidence in your choices, character, and ability to roll with the facts of a scene.

Commitment is a euphemism for confidence. It’s a softer way of saying “be confident,” while removing any implications of arrogance attached to confidence.

What is Arrogance?

Arrogance is not confidence. Arrogance is a way of saying, “I’m better than you are, and you need to catch up to me, not the other way around.”

Arrogance is usually a mask for insecurity.

What is Arrogance’s relationship to Insecurity?

Insecurity is triggered when we are around others and we feel concerned about how they feel about us.

We may want people to like us or form a favorable opinion, and that want — to be liked, to be loved — manifests in different ways behavior wise when it’s coming from a place of insecurity.

We may shrink (that’s one of my go-to’s), act tough, go silent; do whatever negative things that turns people away. And for some people it’s arrogance.

Arrogance is almost a way of pre-rejecting people before they can reject you. People have to prove themselves before you have to prove yourself to them.

They put the burden of proof on you, and that means they can hide in their insecurity a little bit longer.

What is the key difference between Confidence and Arrogance?

While arrogance is directed outward in how you relate yourself to others, confidence is directed inward. It’s about how you relate to yourself in the moment and your belief in our ability to perform at a competent level.

Arrogance = outside

Confidence = inside

How do you know this?

I’ve been accused by people of being arrogant in the past.

And you know what? Maybe they were right.

I wouldn’t be able to talk about this subject with such confidence if I hadn’t experienced it a bit myself.

I guess my arrogance came out in the form of me being unfazed by anything and having the air of supreme confidence of being able to perform anywhere at anytime. In reality, I was eager to hit the stage and want to blow everyone away because I had something to prove.

Maybe this need I have to prove myself comes from a place of not feeling worthy enough? Maybe I need the validation of outside people in order to feel good about myself?

These are deeper questions. And these are things that I think every performer has wrestled with at some point in their journey.

We all have our baggage and insecurities and triggers and things that make us put up our guard in front of others.

There is an old saying that goes, “Wherever you go, there you are,” and I think what that means is that you carry your baggage and insecurities with you wherever you go.

So if you’re insecure in your real life, that might come out on stage and how you conduct yourself in a community.

And if you are aware of that, you’re better off to dealing with that.

Confidence is internal because if you have a good show, you own it, but you don’t ride that high too long. If you have a bad show, you don’t let that bad show define you. You say “Oh well,” and move on to the next one. Basically, you keep doing shows and keep trying to learn and grow.

Whereas with Arrogance, your internal self-worth is is based on every show. A good show makes you feel like a god and a bad show makes you feel like kitchen floor scum. It’s not a healthy way to live.

Developing your internal self worth takes time. But believe me, it’s worth the effort. Spend some time on yourself. Journal. Go see a therapist. Exercise. Take care of your mind, body, and spirit. Learn to love yourself and so will the rest of the world.

So how do you cultivate genuine Confidence? Or at the very least, how do you fight off Arrogance?

There are a few ways to do that:

1). Stay Humble

Humility teaches you that you have a long way to go, and that there is always room for growth, and there are things you have not yet learned, and that there are others out there who know more than you and that you should learn from them.

It’s also a reminder that things can change. One day you’re on top; one day you’re on bottom, and it’s accepting that this is part of the cycle of life. All the confidence in the world won’t get you booked if you’re somebody people don’t want to work with because you’re an asshole. So be nice to everyone!

2). Keep Studying

Never stop learning. There is more knowledge in the world than you’ll ever be able to comprehend. Learn something new and be humbled by the fact that you will never know everything there is to know.

3). Be Kind

Confident people are comfortable with themselves, so it’s easier for them to be comfortable with others. Be kind, meet new people, listen to them, talk to them, pass no judgments, connect. Learn from them, or share with them something you think might benefit them.

4). Gratitude

Just be grateful for everything you have and everything you know. Embrace where you are currently as an opportunity for growth, and have patience and compassion with yourself on your journey.

I know these are all kind of hippy-dippy, New-Agey kind of stuff, and I know that it comes off as dime-store psychology, but it goes back to what I said earlier: confidence is about your relationship with yourself.

If you want to be confident, you have to have a healthy relationship with yourself. I know that’s a big ask of people, and it won’t be easy for everyone, but it’s something I think everyone should look into.

It’s cheesy to say this (and I hate that I’m saying it), but you have to love yourself before others can love you.

I hope these notes helped out and I hope to see you at a drop-in sooner than later!

Fernando

Spectacles Improv Engine host drop-in Improv Classes every Friday from 12pm to 2pm and every Sunday from 11am to 1pm at STAGES Theater in Fullerton. Classes are $10, and every class is different from the other. Check it out!

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